School of Education News

UW-Madison's Hora pens Chronicle guest column on dangers of required internships

March 08, 2018
UW-Madison's Matthew Hora wrote a guest column for The Chronicle of Higher Education discussing the flaws with requiring internships during college. 

Hora is an assistant professor of adult and higher education in the Department of Liberal Arts and Applied Studies at UW–Madison, and is an affiliate with the School of Education’s Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis. Hora is also a research scientist with the Wisconsin Center for Education Research (WCER), and the director of UW-Madison’s Center for College-Workforce Transitions (CCWT), which is housed within WCER.

Matt Hora
​Noting statistics that interns are twice as likely to get a good job after graduation and that 65 percent of employers want applicants with industry-specific work experience, requiring internships to graduate may seem like a good idea. However, this is not always the reality, Hora writes. 

"In many colleges, the landscape of internships is best characterized as ambiguous, unregulated, potentially exploitative, and — for many students — inaccessible," Hora writes.

One factor that would make mandatory internships harmful is the abundance of unpaid internships. For students struggling with food insecurity and homelessness, unpaid work is unrealistic. Unpaid internships could also raise the risk of student exploitation and depress wages for full-time workers.

"Until we have more evidence and adequate resources in hand, let’s hit the pause button on internship mania, and take the time to carefully design and support a system that protects students while making available rich experiential-learning opportunities for all," writes Hora.

Hora is the author of, “Beyond the Skills Gap: Preparing College Students for Life and Work.” This award-winning book explores how educators can ensure that graduates are adequately prepared for the future, challenging the argument that sluggish economic growth is due to a higher education system insufficiently attuned to workplace needs, with the solution being more specialized technical training and fewer liberal arts graduates. 

To read the full article, visit The Chronicle of Higher Education's website: "What's Wrong With Required Internships? Plenty."

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